Seaweed processing and handling workshop provides workforce training

Students working on the processing lines washing and sorting sugar and ribbon kelp.
Students working on the processing lines washing and sorting sugar and ribbon kelp. Photo by Melissa Good/Alaska Sea Grant.

Seaweed farming is a major industry worldwide, and the United States imports more than 95%—19 million tons—of its edible seaweed. Alaska has an ideal environment for producing home-grown seaweed to meet a greater share of the domestic market and as a potential export to meet international demand. Interest in seaweed farming is growing in Alaska, and yet the lack of large-scale processing capacity and guidance hinder the development and expansion of the domestic seaweed farming industry in Alaska and the nation.  

To address this need, Alaska Sea Grant hosted a three-day hands-on training workshop covering the fundamentals of commercial seaweed processing and handling. The workshop took place last month at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center. The workshop consisted of hands-on activities and presentations from industry professionals, scientists, and specialists, including mariculture specialist Melissa Good, marketing specialist Quentin Fong, and seafood technology specialist Chris Sannito, all of Alaska Sea Grant. Experts from Blue Evolution, the National Sea Grant Law Center, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and others led sessions to share their experiences. 

The content of the workshop was designed to train new and established workers and entrepreneurs in the seafood processing, mariculture and food production industries. Topics covered included an overview of the seaweed industry; regulations and permitting for processing food products; processing equipment; stabilization techniques: drying, blanching, freezing, and fermentation; packaging; food safety; and value-added product development. 

man sorting sugar kelp
Students sort through sugar kelp to remove anything undesirable (fish, snails, degraded material.) Photo by Melissa Good/Alaska Sea Grant.

Content for the workshop was based on the Seaweed Handling and Processing: Guidelines for Alaska, published by Alaska Sea Grant. This guide helps individuals and companies better understand what is involved as they decide whether to enter the seaweed processing industry, and to provide industry handling and primary processing standards for food-grade kelp products.

Participants came from across Alaska, from Wrangell in the southeast to Ouzinkie on Kodiak Island. Timing for the workshop coincided with the availability of fully grown kelp from an established Kodiak farm and occurred just before the busy harvest season. 

The workshop was supported by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation and Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference. Alaska Sea Grant plans to host another seaweed processing workshop in spring 2023.

For more information, contact Melissa Good.